July 13, 2007

Have a dictionary at hand!

A short entry is warranted at this stage to express my displeasure with people's general inability to spell. I have little sympathy for perennial misspelling (those who suffer from dyslexia are obviously exempt from my ire). But no sarcasm will ever do justice to the way I feel about people who use big words, only to miswrite them according to some warped pronunciation they have in their heads. The other day, while scouring Facebook in a fit of boredom, I came across the word "summise". The word surmise is not even pronounced like that, you nincompoop! I'm sure they just heard one of their inaudible Professors mutter the word during one of their lectures or classes... Just make sure that next time you have a go at pseudo-intellectualism you have a dictionary at hand!

May 11, 2007

It's time I outed myself…

It's been a while since I've posted something on my blog, but this week's Union Council has warranted an entry, if simply because I'm quite fed up with studying and because three and a half hours of time were wasted that evening listening to self-righteous bickering (and that's an understatement) and frivolous claims to individuality.

It's quite simply unsurprising that I should have developed an unhealthy dose of cynicism lately vis-à-vis the Union given the conduct of people at meetings. Ostensibly my function at Tuesday evening's little get-together was to act as the constitutionally-mandated seconder (this is an issue I'll come to next) of a motion whose purpose it was to state and mandate the obvious: that the President and Education Officer should keep up working intensively with the Aldwych Group. The reason for this seemingly superfluous policy? To ensure our good friend Kirby the frog doesn't forget what his job entails. Certainly not to engage in meaningless pleasantries with the electorate to escape the burden of meaningful policies. I guess I resigned myself to the task and hoped it would be done and dusted without a significant debate. I even forsook speaking superfluously on the motion and gave a, by my standards, uncharacteristically short speech to support it. But did Council respond in kind? NO! We wasted approximately 30 minutes discussing inconsequential changes to the motion. "Should we campaign on X, Y, and Z." "No, no, we need to make sure that X, and Y... given that Y may not be adversely affecting our..." Guys, honestly, what a goddamn waste of time. Life is too short to waste on changing the wording of a motion intended to chaperonean incompetent incoming Union President.

In any case, this is by far the more trivial of issues that cropped up at Council on Tuesday. The next issue is, by far, more tragicomical, in the sense that to a cynic as myself it seems quite laughable (always in retrospect, I wasn't laughing while I had to endure the tortorous debate that ensued at 9.30 pm) while being testament to some of the dysfunctional dynamics in Union Democracy.  I know it sounds very pompous, dysfunctional dynamics, but I didn't just want to say Union Democracy was dysfunctional. There are plenty of people putting in some good effort, particularly at the grassroots level (i.e. campaigns officers, some Faculty Reps, etc...), but there are just certain tendencies that undermine the working of the system, especially at the higher echelons. (The key word used to refer to effort here is good, I hate the constant reference Officers, and in particular some Sabbs, make to the "tremendous effort they put into their work". Yes, you spend more than your contractual 36 weekly hours working in the Union, but I'm more concerned with the quality of your work than its quantity.) Digressions aside, the issue at the heart of the tragicomedy of Tuesday evening was procedure, with particular reference to the Union Constitution.

The issues, when considered in isolation, seem really quite trivial and unimportant. And the fact is that beyond the mutual antagonism of the participants in this debate, they were! One party to the debate had forgotten to amend the Union Constitution appendices so that Committee elections could be held online as opposed to "at a meeting of Council", as was originally constitutionally-mandated. The elections that were carried out were therefore technically unconstitutional, but given that no candidate complained, and the change was ultimately minor, the matter should have simply been one of apologizing to Council and amending the relevant appendix. Enter our second faction, which had some mischief brewing in its sorcerer's cauldron. Originally, a motion was submitted that proposed to censure the individual responsible for the constitutional slip-up, but this was not accepted because it lacked a constitutionally-mandated seconder by the motion deadline. (It was therefore submitted as an amendment to the motion amending the Appendix that our first faction had submitted to Council.)

It surprises me that no one has yet spotted the supreme irony of this situation, particularly given the affinity between the person making that constitutionalruling and the individual facing a censure motion. Essentially, both factions were engaging each other in a hate-filled proceduralbattle. Both were being petty in the extreme. The sorcerers' claim that a "dangerous precedent was being set" by ignoring three words in the Constitution is simply ridiculous. If the violation of three words in that hallowed document meant a violation of its spirit and was a danger to the values of this Union I would be the first to rally in opposition. But protesting vehemently over a minor technical slip-up that had no bearing on the well-being of the Union, and which in fact amounted to enacting a policy that was viewed by the sorcerers as inherently beneficial, is simply ridiculous. Likewise, it's quite petty to dismiss a policy because of a technicality, and this was probably prompted more by political considerations than a genuine concern for procedure. Bah!

But I must ultimately turn to the main subject of this entry: my coming out of the closet. Ultimately, it was the motion on the "Provision for Students of Minority Sexual and Gender Identities" that really gave me a motivation to write this entry. The way terms were simply slung around without adequate questioning was irritating in the extreme. I know we as a Union are committed to equal opportunities, which is a bit of a misnomer in this context given we're talking about tolerance more than a belief in meritocratic procedures, but that doesn't mean that we can't seriously challenge frivolous claims to individuality. What am I talking about? Let me cite from the supporting document for that motion, which sought to explain why we needed to rename the position of LGBTU (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, and Undefined) campaigns officer to make it more inclusive:

Omnisexual and Pansexual- These two identities are very similar. Essentially for both, it is an attraction to any person, where gender does not come into the equation. Pan- and Omnisexual people are attracted to men, women, androgynes , hermaphrodites, intersexed and transsexed people alike.

The only difference between Pan and Omni-sexual people is that while omnisexual implies a countable number of set genders, pansexual allows gender to be a continuum and leaves interpretation more open for genderfluid people or example.

Polyamourous - a type of relationship where people take more than one partner. Polyamorous people often form close groups where rather than having a couple, 'trios' and 'quartets' for example are more appropriate. These relationships are often (but not always) interlinked, where for example all three people in a trio love the other two.

Essentially, the point was made that among others, polyamorous, pansexualand omnisexual individuals had separate identities that had to be covered by the former position of the LGBTU officer. Although the question was asked whether being polyamorous was really a question of identity, as opposed to a behavioral trait, this was quite summarily dismissed by a guest present from another University who defined herself as such. Her (although she would probably resent the use of that particular pronoun, a fact in which I take some pleasure :)) tone wasn't exactly friendly, and even I was somewhat intimidated by it. No one questioned matters beyond that, and the motion was passed without much debate. Now, personally, whereas I do believe in tolerance and inclusivityI am a bit stunned at how a climate is created where any individual can claim to be different on unproven grounds and expect recognition. It amounts to recognition by decree. "Recognize my individuality or else be labeled as an uncompromising bigot." I guess I'm left with no choice but to cast away the oppressive sexual classification that has hitherto been levied on me and out myself as the only thing that truly defines me, my Gabesexuality.

March 04, 2007

When in Rome, do as the Romans…

I'm up at 3.27 am even though I have to get up at 8.30 tomorrow for a football match because some cretins decided to behave like the scum they are and try to assault my friend and I and break into our house...

Essentially, we were playing "keepy-uppy" outside our house (by us I mean Jan & Al, two of my housemates, and Rich, a good friend, and myself) after the lunar eclipse when one of these specimens of scum (I'll go as far as saying that they sub-human) approached us asing whether he could buy a cigarette off of us for 1 pound. First of all, if you're a bad ass thug, why would you ask to purchase a cigarette at a ridiculously inflated price. Secondly, why would you start insulting people wantonly when they politely said no and pointed in the direction of the local offy. Honestly, he could not have possibly been a human being.

I'll finish this tomorrow... I'm off to bed now...

February 23, 2007

Fair Trade?

With Fair Trade Week comin' up and certain sabbaticals and officers having rice poured over them I feel it's only right I should dedicate a few lines to what I consider a nefariously deceptive scheme. Whereas I do have a lot of respect for the people putting their hearts and souls into organizing Fair Trade Week, (another week to be subsumed by "Everything (but classless) Week" next year if all goes according to plan but not if I and reason can help it!) fair trade itself is a dubious concept to me.

Basic international macroeconomics tells us why. Prices for agricultural commodities are quite low and volatile, thanks in large measure to the EU's CAP but also to overproduction. The overdependence of LDC's on these products is what made non-reciprocal trade preferences à la Lomé so utterly useless. So what do we guilt-ridden Westerners come up with so that we can sleep at night? Guaranteeing them a minimum price? Yeah, sounds good, just make sure Tesco and Asda can improve their price-cost margins by 50% for those products while we're at it, and encourage even more overproduction in the process. How are we going to help farmers if we send them the wrong market signal (i.e. to continue farming when there is excess production and when they really should be looking for another job)?

I am going to distance myself from Washington consensus neo-liberals right away. Structural adjustment programs with all the fiscal austerity they impose are not the way forward either. But truly free trade is. It's time we in the West stopped prevaricating with ineffective (and indeed counterproductive) nonsense like fair trade and starting making sure the Doha Round worked instead of setting every city alight which has the misfortune of hosting world trade talks!

February 22, 2007

Some reflections on refereeing in the Midland Combination

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of running the line in a Division One match in the Midland Combination which is at step 7 or so in the National League System. (So theoretically a team could promote its way from there into the Premiership... Yeah right!) In any case, the match between Leamington Hibs and West Midlands Police at Racing Club Warwick's ground almost turned into a re-enactment of the battle of Hastings (I say this with some irony because one idiotic supported something along the lines of "you [expletive deleted] should just surrender like the French!"), and not only because the pitch itself was a muddy hell hole on which I could not even recognize the half-way line, but because football players are swine. Alright, I shouldn't generalize like that, because yesterday's spectacle was simply beyond what you see most days.

A foul tackle here, a lunge there when the ball was already 20 yards away, a couple of rash decisions on my part to wave a flag signaling for a free-kick when the referee had told them to get on with it on my behalf... And of course, insults galore from a bunch of idiots who felt they were the incarnation of Wayne Rooney. (Admittedly, they did resemble that supposed football icon in at least in two respects: in terms of their Neanderthal-like behavior and looks.)

My worry is that I am supposed to be protected on campus (if not at home where I am under the jurisdiction of their Warwickshire colleagues) by these thugs who played for the West Midlands Police team... I really share the sentiments of one of the spectators who came up to us after the game to sympathize with our plight, telling us he'd been "disgusted by the behavior of two supposedly community-based sides". All I can really recommend is that you don't commit criminal acts on campus (and if so only on the other side of Gibbet Hill Road) to avoid violent police reprisals and that you, under no circumstances, play football against policemen. They'll just mistake you for a criminal!

February 15, 2007

Facebook – The New Office of Public Records

It's about a year now since the big Facebook Boom in the UK and it's getting evermore worrying. People are starting waste hour after hour on this silly concoction, trading pictures, messages, "pokes" (I did, with great pride, join a Facebook group called "Enough with the Poking, Lets [sic] Just Have Sex") to the detriment of their degrees. I guess it seems innocuous enough in comparison, but people even considerate it a legitimate topic to write their RAE (Research in Applied Economics, a compulsory dissertation for Economics Undergraduate finalists) projects on these days...

But today, at least, I got the better of it through a little prank that, in all fairness, was my girlfriend Dunja's idea and I was reticent to agree to in the first place. Her idea was to change our "Relationship Status" from "In a Relationship" to "Engaged" to fool people into thinking I had proposed to her on Valentine's Day.

In any case, the joke for her consisted in actually fooling people in real life as well, i.e. when asked in person to pull people's legs as well. I, in all my manliness, just told people who asked me about it that it was a prank straightaway. But that's besides the point....

What started as a silly joke, turned into a quite subversive bit of fun when one person I never talk to but still have listed as friends on Facebook (residue from my time in highschool in Brussels) decided to congratulate me hesitantly. ("are you really engaged or is this facebook propaganda? if you are... congrats!") And then even M. Rory the Tory, a good friend of mine who's a Grad student at Warwick decided to do likewise. And then I hear from Dunja that people on her end were actually also buying it. Which made me think...

Facebook seems to be becoming a means of open electronic record-keeping. In 10 years time there will no longer be a need for the public record-keeping in dusty, bureaucratic offices and corridors. Whenever someone gets married or has a kid (I have it on good authority that they'll be adding a "Has a Kid With" feature soon) they'll simply have to clap their hands to turn on their holographic computer and tell it to input the relevant details on "Facebook". Bah!

February 13, 2007

Union Democracy

I just got back from the first Union Council meeting for a while that I can remember not having reached quorum (that sounds like a complicated way of saying "inquorate" but, alas, the former isn't actually a word in anglais although some Union hacks seem quite intent on using it at any given opportunity). Quite frustrating really... Especially given my renewed interest in politicking at the highest instances of student decision-making.

I guess it's no surprise given that it's reading week and the last AGM did not reach quorum, but honestly. What was the goddamn point in sticking around campus from 1 'til 8 if both Exec and Council were essentially "called off"? Bah!

The beginning…

So many other idiots have set up one of these that I could not but feel left out. So I've decided to add my two cents to the garbled nonsense thousands of Bloggers put out on the WWW every day. And it has to start with a rant about SU President-elect, Mr. Joe, "I'm-a-cretin" Kirby. A disclaimer: what follows, and in fact most of what will be featured on this blog, will just be hate-filled, (not entirely) groundless ad hominem. So let it begin.

Monsieur Kirby's name and persona simply remind me of the illustrious Kermit the frog. (Apparently our leader-elect also campaigned on "green" issues so it makes the metaphor all the more fitting). Just like Kermit, Monsieur Kirby is ridiculous. Quite frankly I'd rather entrust the Union to Kermit than Kirby, because even Kermit is bound to know more about how to run the place than Kirby. What is more, Kermit does not have that conceited, self-indulgent "winner" air about him that this nincompoop does. Bah!

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